Ireland’s Grand Slam dream shattered by France

By Thomas Crean

Photo: Conor Lawless

France 33-10 Ireland

Irish dreams of a second consecutive Grand Slam were severely dashed by France in Saturday’s RBS Six Nations clash at the Stade de France.

The French comprehensively overcame a clearly inferior Ireland side both physically and creatively.

The match started reasonably even with neither side dominating the opening exchanges.

There were few moments of note until Ireland’s Gordan D’Arcy broke free and sprinted from midfield, chipping the final French defender, however he was unfortunately was unable to retrieve the ball as it bounced away from his grasp inches from the French line.

France opened the scoring in the 15th minute from the boot of Morgan Parra, following the sin-binning of Irish prop Cian Healy for a professional foul.

Ireland were fortunate avoid a second yellow card as Jerry Flannery made a reckless challenge on the French winger Pallisson, who had to then withdraw.

France exposed the opposition’s reduced manpower with some extreme pressure, before Servat crossed for a try under the posts. Parra converted but the Irish response was almost immediate with a Ronan O’Gara penalty.

Jauzion grounded his side’s second try on the half hour mark, following another bruising sequence of phases for the Irish defence. France were handed possession originally by Paul O’Connell’s uncharacteristic knock-on; this set the tone for an error-littered display.

France were unlucky to not seal the game soon after the restart in the corner, but the Television Match Official ruled that a French hand had knocked the ball forward beforehand.

Despite this setback, it was impossible to look beyond the home side, who looked much hungrier for victory and were out-muscling Ireland in every position on the park.

Captain Brian O’Driscoll missed a possible trademark interception in the 55th minute by inches from a stray French pass.

Keith Earls had strived for his side’s cause throughout, but turned villain as he knocked forward his own mark, which led to another French try in the aftermath courtesy of Poitrenaud.

Parra converted, before striking a magnificent and unexpected drop goal from the right wing a minute later.

Earls responded for his error by starting a flowing Irish move across the width of the turf, which was eventually grounded by David Wallace.

O’Gara converted to leave the score at 27-10, but a comeback was unlikely with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Parra missed a placed kick, but redeemed himself when striking from a similar range a minute later.

Despite needing a miracle to get anything out of the game, Ireland kept persisting in trying to play quality rugby, but the French defended heroically.

Substitute Frederick Michilak struck a drop goal in the last minute, as the game ended at a 33-10 win for Les Bleus.

On this display, they must be considered clear favourites for the Grand Slam as they easily disposed of their apparent closest rivals.

Ireland will be devastated. They kept playing with an admirable spirit but must accept they were defeated by a far superior side. Triple Crown glory is all they can hope for this season.

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